It's Your Health: Environmental toxins — Part 2

Environmental toxins can be tricky. You can't smell, feel, or see many toxins, although they permeate our water, food, and air. We don't ponder their affects until later, when we develop a chronic plight after years of exposure.

• 77,000 chemicals are produced in North America;

• 3,000 plus chemicals are added to our food supply;

• 10,000 emulsifiers, solvents, and preservatives are used in food processing;

• 1,000 new chemicals appear each year.

Humans are responsible for many of the worst neurotoxins. Some of the most detrimental to the brain are:

Metals: An abundance of aluminum, copper, iron, manganese, mercury, and lead can contribute to neurological disorders. Lead has been linked to behavior problems and dementia. Mercury can cause mental slowness, short-term memory loss, and motor skill problems. Excessive manganese exposure is associated with motor and learning impairment. Aluminum is affiliated with Alzheimer's (AD) and MS. Iron and copper accompany the possible development of AD and Parkinson's disease (PD).

Sources: Certain kinds of metal pots and pans, some plumbing, contaminated food, building materials, water and air pollution.

Brominated flame-retardants: How many of our home products contain these chemicals that amass in our bodies? BFR's lessen the spread of fire in electronics, mattresses, upholstered furniture, etc. But an accumulation in us can damage the thyroid and be instrumental in behavior and learning.

Sources: Long-term exposure to treated items.

Fuels and solvents: Continuous exposure can cause neurological damage resulting in a multitude of problems: memory, balance, developmental, dementia, and brain atrophy.

Sources: Gasoline additives and octane boosters, water and air contaminated with rocket fuel, paint thinners, paints, and glues.

Pesticides and herbicides: According to the Environmental Protection Agency, 60 percent of herbicides, 90 percent of fungicides and 30 percent of insecticides are known to be carcinogenic. Shockingly, pesticide residues are surfacing in 50 to 90 percent of U.S. foods. Chemicals used in agriculture, landscaping, and pest control have been linked to slurred speech, blurred vision, motor problems, and severe allergic reactions. Over time, the damage could lead to brain tumors and diseases such as MS, PD, cancer, nerve damage, miscarriage, birth defects, and the inability to absorb food nutrients.

Sources: food (fruits, vegetables and commercially raised meats), bug and lawn sprays, and direct contact with herbicides and pesticides.

These toxins are the most injurious to the brain so limit your exposure as much as possible. Check your home's plumbing, pots and pans, lead crystal, and children's toys. Be diligent when purchasing a new sofa or mattress. Question the salesperson about BFR (brominated flame-retardant) chemical safety but don't expect a satisfactory explanation. Their purpose is to sell the product, not be concerned about your body's toxic accumulation or thyroid damage.

Hopefully, you never sniffed glue (never understood the attraction for something that could kill you). I think we all know that solvents, fuels, and our nasal passages are a potentially deadly mix.

When using these products — paint thinners, etc. — do so in a ventilated area.

Insidious pesticides and herbicides might induce future brain tumors, but immediate complications could result in death, if you're allergic. If you have had an allergic reaction, carry benadryl and possibly an EPIPEN (Rx only). More on this next time.

Next week I'll address some of your concerns and additional toxins that we all should heed.


Kay Sager is a certified fitness and aquatic specialist living at Port of the Islands. She is a personal trainer using land and water fitness and teaches swimming. She also has written articles for Physician and Sports Medicine among other publications. Kay can be reached by e-mail:

© 2007 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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